Takeaways from Cleveland's 23-10 Loss to Miami
It's a tradition unlike any other. For nearly a decade now, the Cleveland Browns have started their season 0-1.
Ever year it seems as though the Browns find a way to flush a golden opportunity down the toilet and start the season on the wrong foot.
Sunday was no different. The Browns lost 23-10 to the Miami Dolphins in a sloppy game filled with turnovers and penalties.
Here are eight takeaways from the Browns' ninth consecutive opening week loss.
Brandon Weeden Still Has a Lot to Prove
If the Colts game was a hiccup, the opener against the Dolphins was a near-death asphyxiation for Weeden. He threw three interceptions and looked rattled all day long.
He didn't have much time to work in the pocket, but he still stared down receivers and delivered inaccurate passes.
At some point, Weeden is going to have to overcome the imperfect conditions surrounding him on offense and prove he is a game-changer.
A line of 26-of-53 for 289 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions just isn't going to cut it.
Injuries at Right Guard Hurt More Than We Thought
Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston entered training camp competing for the right guard position. Pinkston has since been put on injured reserve. Cleveland.com has reported that Lauvao could miss two to three games after arthroscopic ankle surgery.
Guard is the one position on the offensive line that can be somewhat hidden if the replacement is serviceable and he is surrounded by elite talent on each side.
Oniel Cousins, who started at right guard, proved he is not serviceable. Mitchell Schwartz proved he has a ways to go before being considered elite. The right side of the line was taken to task by Cameron Wake and Randy Starks, who combined for four sacks, three tackles for loss and nine QB hits.
Cousins also added had four penalties on his less-than-stellar day.
They also could get no push in the run game. This was a huge reason that Trent Richardson was only able to muster 47 yards on the ground.
The Browns have to find a different option at right guard before next week, or the Ravens' young defense could have a field day.
Norv Turner Has to Find a Way to Get Richardson into Open Space
When your biggest offensive weapon has 13 carries for 47 yards and only two receptions, it's going to be tough to win.
The offensive line made it nearly impossible for Richardson to establish any type of running game. The second he touched a handoff, he had Dolphins defenders in his face. It is actually quite astonishing that Richardson was able to dance his way to 47 yards on the ground.
Richardson was most effective on the Browns' first drive, when he rushed for 26 yards on four attempts. The offense was working out of the pistol formation and also pitching the ball to Richardson outside.
His two receptions also totaled 30 yards.
Norv Turner has to figure out a way to get Richardson the ball in space more often. When he doesn't see a hole in the offensive line, he has a tendency to dance and cut back.
They did try to throw multiple screen passes to Richardson, but the timing was never right. It is time to go back to the drawing board and find a way to give their best weapon a chance to make plays.
This Pass Rush Is as Good as Advertised
The biggest silver lining from the Browns' loss was that the pass rush was everything the Browns had hoped for and then some. Ryan Tannehill had little time to scan the defense before pressure was in his lap, and the pass-rushers kept the team in the game.
Ray Horton's defense lived up to its billing as aggressive and fast.
The Browns spent nearly all their free-agent money to bolster the pass rush and it produced dividends in Week 1. Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger, and Quentin Groves combined for four sacks, five tackles for loss and six QB hits.
Until it completely ran out of gas from being on the field so much, the defense held the Dolphins in check and created multiple turnover opportunities. While the secondary dropped a few gimme interceptions, the pass rush was still responsible for the errant throws.
The Browns Actually Might Have a Run Defense
Besides the losing, the most consistent attribute of the Browns since their return in '99 was their inability to stop the run. We have seen so many scheme changes and personnel overhauls that it is tough to not take a "wait and see" approach.
I was thoroughly impressed with the run defense against Miami.
The Dolphins were only able to muster 20 yards on 23 attempts for a staggering 0.9 yards-per-carry average. Lamar Miller, who many feel is one of the more talented young backs in the league, was ineffective, rushing for just three yards on the day.
The defensive line was outstanding at clogging running lanes and allowing the linebackers to come in and make plays.
It is only one game, but that was the best we have seen the Browns play against the run in over a decade.
Chris Owens and Buster Skrine Are in for a Long Year
Joe Haden did what Joe Haden does. He shut down Mike Wallace, allowing him to catch only one ball for 15 yards.
Buster Skrine and Chris Owens, however, were not great.
As expected, the Dolphins identified and targeted the duo of cornerbacks time and time again. Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Charles Clay combined for 21 catches, 245 yards and one TD almost exclusively against Skrine and Owens.
Hartline is a very good receiver, but the way he had Owens spinning in circles, he looked like Wes Welker.
The Browns knew what they were getting into when they entered the year with just Skrine, Owens and third-round draft pick Leon McFadden. Even with a good pass rush against Miami, they were still roasted.
They need to improve quickly, or it will be a long year across from Haden.
The Browns Badly Need Josh Gordon
With Josh Gordon suspended the first two games of the year, the pressure was put on Travis Benjamin and Davone Bess to pick up the slack.
While both had decent games, combining for eight catches and 91 yards, Gordon's absence was glaring.
Greg Little and Benjamin both dropped passes. The team had five drops total.
One of Brandon Weeden's interceptions might not have happened had it been Gordon on the route instead of Benjamin. Gordon would have been strong enough to fight through the defender and knock the pass away.
They also lacked a true deep threat. As fast as Benjamin is, if he is jammed at the line of scrimmage, he is gone from the play. Gordon is able to muscle through press coverage and still keep timing with the quarterback.
Jordan Cameron was phenomenal, catching nine balls for 108 yards and one touchdown. He was the only pass-catcher who elevated his game in Gordon's absence.
The Atmosphere Has Changed
While the play on the field didn't look all that different, the feel inside the stadium sure did. The Browns really focused this offseason on creating an intimidating home-field advantage that has been absent since the team returned to the league.
The in-house DJ, drumline and revamped player introductions all worked because for most of the game, there was an actual advantage to playing there.
The crowd noise affected the Dolphins twice in the first half. It caused them to use a timeout and for a lineman to jump offsides when he couldn't hear the snap count.
The only question I have about the revamped atmosphere is that if the team isn't winning, will it stay or be a flash in the pan? The Browns organization may find out that answer soon.
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